The Strategy Behind Morocco’s Recent Agreement with NOVA Community College – Jordana Merran

Jordana Merran, MAC
April 21, 2015

When President Obama unveiled his community college tuition plan during his State of the Union address earlier this year, he drew a direct line between the community college system and workforce development. “Thanks to Vice President Biden’s great work to update our job training system,” he said, “We’re connecting community colleges with local employers to train workers to fill high-paying jobs like coding, and nursing, and robotics.”

The strategy could have been taken straight out of King Mohammed VI’s own education reform playbook. Morocco is working to reform the country’s education system by adopting more job-oriented curricula and vocational training.


For one, Morocco is determined to become an economic hub in Africa, and such ambitions require a skilled work force. Indeed Morocco’s economy is fast pivoting toward skills-heavy sectors like finance and aeronautic and automotive manufacturing, and trained workers are needed to meet their needs. But Morocco also understands that stability and prosperity (in other words, access to jobs) go hand in hand. It’s no secret that much of the unrest that swept through the region during the Arab Spring was fueled by the frustrations of vast numbers of unemployed youth.

In an effort to move quickly and efficiently, Morocco is leveraging public-private partnerships and other collaborations to help. Volvo, for example, in partnership with USAID, the United Nations and Morocco’s OCP Foundation, is building a mechanics training school. “By training local manpower, we will contribute to sustainable growth in the countries in which Volvo operates,” said Volvo’s Executive Vice President of Corporate Sustainability& Public Affairs Niklas Gustavsson. During the US’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit, held last November in Marrakesh, Vice President Joe Biden announced a second Millennium Challenge Corporation compact “to finance at least $50 million in public-private partnership to provide vocational and technical training to equip young Moroccans with the skills they need to compete globally.” And most recently, earlier this week Morocco’s Ministry of National Education and Professional Training signed a memorandum of understanding with NOVA Community College in Alexandria, Virginia—one of the US’s largest community colleges, renowned for its workforce development programs.

“When the Moroccan Minister of Education first visited us it didn’t take him long to realize the potential for this idea of having a collaborative relationship with our institution,” said Dr. Paul McVeigh, Associate Vice President of Global Studies and Programs at NOVA, and a signatory of the MOU. “I think the potential for [workforce development]—ours as well as theirs—is of mutual benefit.”

Though details remain to be hammered out, the MOU provides a framework for cooperation, including the potential for student and faculty exchanges, joint research projects, and more, with a special focus on vocational and language training.

Following the discussion, six students of Moroccan origin currently enrolled in NOVA met with the meeting participants, including Moroccan Ambassador to the US Rachad Bouhlal; Minister Delegate of Education Abdelaadim El Guerrouj; Director of Vocational Training and signatory to the MOU Mr. Khalid Saidi, among others. Two of the students, one from Casablanca and the other from Rabat, are studying engineering and hoping to transfer to George Mason University. Another is applying to medical school; another pursuing a business administration degree; and the other in IT.

“The wealth of the country is young people like you,” said Minister Delegate El Guerrouj to the students. Which is exactly why these programs are being put into place.

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